How An ‘Old Transit’ System Is Becoming The New Comeback Kid

The streetcar may conjure up nostalgic images, but look at some of the major metropolitan areas in the U.S. – Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Tucson, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington D.C. and Orange County – and it’s clear that cities are starting to embrace the streetcar once again.

While it’s one cog in the wheel of a comprehensive transit system, streetcar systems can act as a boon for economic development, and a powerful tool for revitalizing sagging corridors and attracting the much-sought after talent of a young, hip workforce who choose to reduce, delay or completely forego car ownership.

But the streetcar is not only about economic development of an area or providing a different form of transportation; it’s an investment in community revitalization – rebranding the entire city as a place that prioritizes experimentation, quality of life and sense of place. The resurgence of the streetcar signals that cities are taking a big-picture view, investing in themselves and in a complex layering of systems that together define quality of life: moving people and enhancing the experience of moving.

We’re taking a look at the streetcar – past, present and future – for a series in METRO magazine. We encourage you to check it out and let us know what you think: